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Hospitality Lodging Systems Adds Two New Haven Inn & Suites

Hotel Interactive - Tue, 2017-05-23 05:52
Hospitality Lodging Systems (HLS) has opened two new Haven Inn & Suites -- a 140-room conversion in the Atlanta suburb of ...

RLHC Names Calvin Anderson SVP & Chief Of Revenue Optimization

Hotel Interactive - Tue, 2017-05-23 05:47
SPOKANE, WA—RLHC (Red Lion Hotels Corporation) (NYSE:RLH) has continued its innovative and forward-thinking ways with the addition of Calvin Anderson as ...

Upscale & Upper Midscale Are The Largest Chain Scales In The Construction Pipeline

Hotel Interactive - Tue, 2017-05-23 05:41
Analysts at Lodging Econometrics (LE) report that the Upper Midscale category is currently at 2,067 Projects/205,662 Rooms, and has the largest ...

Vimana Becomes First U.S. Franchise To List Its Full Hotel Portfolio On

Hotel Interactive - Tue, 2017-05-23 05:30
BIRMINGHAM, AL—-Today Vimana Franchise Systems LLC becomes the first national hotel chain to list its full portfolio with HotelBids Inc. This ...

Third Annual ILES Conference, BITAC Independent Draws Record Crowd, Iconic Speakers

Hotel Interactive - Tue, 2017-05-23 05:16
PHOENIX-–When hoteliers and suppliers come together, great things happen. This was evident at the 3rd Annual InnDependent Lodging Executive Summit (ILES) ...

Chalak Mitra Group sells 3 brands

Nation's Restaurant News - Mon, 2017-05-22 21:12

The Chalak Mitra Group of Companies, which includes the Genghis Grill chain, announced on Monday the sale of three of its non-core brands — Elephant Bar Restaurant, Baker Bros. American Deli and Ruby Tequila’s Mexican Kitchen.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The most recent completed sale was for the 10-unit Elephant Bar, which was sold via stock purchase agreement on May 19 to an affiliate of SBR LLC, described as an investment company based in Connecticut. 

Chalak Mitra Group acquired the then-29-unit Elephant Bar out of bankruptcy in 2014. It was operated at the time by S.B. Restaurant Co. Greenwich, Conn.-based KarpReilly was a former investor in the chain. Officials with Chalak Mitra Group said SBR LLC is not affiliated with KarpReilly, but they declined to give further information on the buyer.

The transition will occur over the next several weeks and will not impact day-to-day operation of the restaurants, Chalak Mitra Group said, but the company did not respond to further requests for details.

The sale of four-unit Ruby Tequila’s is expected to be completed this month, Chalak Mitra Group said. It was sold to an affiliate of Fired Up Holding Company Inc., based in Lubbock, Texas. Fired Up Holdings operates a concept called Twisted Spigot. Chalak Mitra Group officials said it is not the same group that owns the Johnny Carino's Italian Kitchen chain, which is called Fired Up Inc., based in Austin, Texas.

Baker Bros., a fast-casual deli chain, sold in February to multiconcept franchise operator FGR Food Corp., based in Dallas, Chalak Mitra Group said. FGR Food Corp. operates the fast-casual Uno Due Go brand.

Al Bhakta, Chalak Mitra Group’s managing director, said in a statement the sale will help shape the group’s high-level strategic direction.

“We were proud to be affiliated with these brands throughout our ownership and wish the new ownership groups the best of luck,” he said. “As a result of these transactions, we will allocate our resources to expand and strengthen our other businesses.”

According to Chalak Mitra Group’s website, the company owned and operated 260 restaurants prior to the sale of these non-core brand, including the Genghis Grill chain.

Update: May 22, 2017 This story has been updated with new information from Chalak Mitra Group.

Correction: May 23, 2017 An earlier version of this story misstated the number of Elephant Bar and Ruby Tequila's Mexican Kitchen units. In addition, the Chalak Mitra Group of Companies includes Genghis Grill.

Contact Lisa Jennings at

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

Supermarkets, c-stores use design to erase the line between retail and dining

Nation's Restaurant News - Mon, 2017-05-22 20:20

Supermarkets and c-stores looking to get in on the dining game can build on some key elements of restaurant design to create a dining experience customers will seek out. At the NRA Show’s Foodservice @ Retail Summit in Chicago, two leading voices in the grocerant design world, Juan Romero of api(+), a design firm, and Tré Musco of Tesser, a brand strategy design firm, presented on the topic. Nicolas Granucci of Ecolab moderated the session.

Romero and Musco shared important design ideas and details to know if you’re looking to make your supermarket or c-store a destination where customers feel welcome to stay, dine and enjoy.

Left to right: Tré Musco of Tesser, Juan Romero of api(+) and Nicolas Granucci of Ecolab

“Consumers care about what the experience is like, and 90% of the information sent to the brain is visual,” Musco said. “People form judgments instantaneously. In terms of design, perception is reality.”

If a c-store or grocery store — known as a place to get gas or groceries — is to become a place to enjoy a meal, that means customers must perceive it as such.

“This is about leveraging your environment to create memorable experiences,” Romero said. “Customers can spend the whole day eating and enjoying [in a supermarket]. There’s an entertainment value that’s happening in grocery design. The concepts inside supermarkets can go anywhere from fast casual to elegant to urban.”

Romero described his epiphany 12 years ago when he visited a brand-new, 80,000-square-foot Whole Foods in Austin, Texas.

“There was excitement everywhere … the graphics were together, the architecture was together … I saw an island with a bar setting and chairs, a juice maker, salads and adult beverages,” Romero said. “It dawned on me that this is where supermarkets need to take food.”

Borrowing design elements from the restaurant world is part of the process of creating a destination-dining environment within a supermarket or c-store.

Musco theorized that traditional restaurants deliver on three core consumer needs: care, convenience and quality.

“Grocerants tend to miss out on the care aspect, that sweet spot of comfort,” Musco said. He offered five ways that grocery stores and c-stores can bridge that gap:

  • Lead with change: “Consumers think of you in one way and have a hard time shifting gears,” Musco said. He pointed to a new Sheetz dining room with an up-front kitchen and inviting dining room, a warm comfortable environment that makes a radical departure from old-fashioned gas station. “We learned early on that we had to go way forward with the change so heritage brands won’t get stuck in a certain place in consumers’ minds.”
  • Be a place to recharge: “People think of lunch and dinner as mini breaks, so set up your interior as a place to stay and feel comfortable,” Musco said, suggesting comfortable lounge seating, warm lighting and great music as ways to create that restorative environment. Big no-nos include cavernous spaces that look like a fluorescent-lit office. Go in the direction of richer and warmer.
  • Go with the flow: “If you’re a c-store or grocery store, you know what you’re good at,” Musco said. “But customers know how restaurants work, and that’s not standing in line with the grocery carts.” That means investing in digital technology like app-based ordering from gas pumps, for example.
  • Details matter: Details like restrooms should never be overlooked for a dining area within a grocery store or c-store. “Restrooms really matter,” Musco said. “Customers 100% judge your freshness and cleanliness on your restrooms.” Musco showed an example of the San Francisco airport’s bathrooms, which have areas to touch up makeup, guard rails to prevent getting a wet shirt while washing hands and a rack to place bags on while washing hands. Another detail to remember is better lighting on food that’s on display. Make it look as crisp and fresh as possible.
  • Dive into the deep end: “Customers don’t want to feel like you’re just adding a couple of tables because you had a little extra space,” Musco said. Your supermarket dining area should feel like a dedicated space, not an afterthought or add-on that was hastily thrown together. He cited Kroger’s Fresh Eats as an example of a place that’s “as fresh as Chipotle and as good as your favorite $14 salad place.”

To reach these goals, Musco encouraged getting feedback from not just customers, but team members and managers along the way. They will be your eyes on the ground as to what’s working and what isn’t in regards to lines, flow and the overall operation. He also encouraged making bold moves and investing in the long run.

“Don’t cheap out on materials for tables, chairs and floors,” Musco said, pointing out that today’s customers are fine with old-school materials like wood, marble and stone that get a patina over time. Plastic may be easy to maintain, but older materials have more authenticity in consumers’ eyes.

Another key point is to get everyone on your team (food and beverage, real estate, architects, financial people) in on every part of the process.

“This is a team sport,” Musco said. “Get it right the first time, because it takes a lot of capital and time to redo it.”

Also, don’t just focus on your new flagship/prototype stores, but instead think, “How is this [dining space] going to go into a 30-year-old store that has a weird footprint?” Musco said. “Value your assets as a grocery store and play that up.”

How manufacturer insights can benefit retail foodservice

Nation's Restaurant News - Mon, 2017-05-22 19:17

Since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008, restaurant traffic has been decreasing while visits to grocery and convenience stores have been on the rise.

“They’ve lost almost a billion trips since the recession, [and those visits have gone] into retail channels,” said Randy Raymond, director of retail foodservice strategy for Coca-Cola.

That process has helped give rise to, and been fueled by, increasingly attractive food offerings in retail locations.

Raymond discussed how his company and other manufacturers could work with retailers to further improve those offerings in a panel conversation with Jeremy Gosch, chief merchandising officer of Hy-Vee, Jim Bressi, director of research & development for Kwik Trip, and Richard Allardyce, senior director of merchandising and commercial programs for Sobeys.

Raymond, whose job at Coke is to bridge the gap between his company’s foodservice focus and retail, said the company had been surveying thousands of consumers to understand why they decide to eat where they do and can provide retailers with culinary and restaurant trend insights to help them target their operations appropriately.

Bressi said Kwik Trip benefited from that and other data provided by suppliers.

“We rely heavily on manufacturers, especially with data. They’re the ones with resources to get the information down to you,” he said.

The Market Grille's menu includes a mix of American, Italian and Asian dishes. 

Gosch, whose Hy-Vee markets have seen success with their Market Grille restaurants, said he could use help with groups of consumers who use Hy-Vee’s facilities to cook their own food for the week.

“And they can drink wine in there, which I think is part of the attraction,” he said. But he said he’d like to work with Coke and other manufacturers to put recipes together to provide meal solutions for his customers, both in-store and in their homes.

Allardyce said Sobeys had already benefited from insights from the culinary teams of Rich Products and other manufacturers, but it remained a challenge of how to get the foodservice and retail sides in his own markets to communicate better. That included having the staff at his delis understand how to save money by using foodservice products instead of retail ones — such as large restaurant-sized pouches of Alfredo sauce rather than items from the supermarket aisles.

He said it was also a challenge to get supermarket workers to act more like chefs.

“It’s tough to go into these delis and tell them we want them to slice the green onions on a counter, on the bias, with a chef’s knife — not a paring knife or a plastic knife,” he said. He noted that his suppliers have some of the best culinary teams in the country, and he’d like to use them to help train his own staff to produce at a higher level and to do it consistently.

Gosch agreed that manufacturers with foodservice expertise could help them find efficiencies in moving beyond the retail products they were accustomed to using.

Bressi said that when Kwik Trip started going into foodservice 13 years ago they had to train staff who were used to running cash registers how to use knives. “But now we’re a restaurant that sells gas,” with its own bakeries and commissaries. However, he said, “we do rely on the Riches of the world to develop recipes.”

Allardyce said his team also needs help learning how to romance the food that they’re cooking.

“It’s not just a deli salad anymore,” he said. “It’s an in-house-roasted beet salad that we cooked this morning using beets from a local farm. … We need to start recruiting from culinary schools and finding people that have a passion for food.”

Raymond said macro-consumer trends showed a bright future for foodservice at retail. He said younger generations don’t distinguish between different operational channels. As far as they’re concerned, convenience stores, supermarkets and restaurants are “all kind of one thing.”

Combine that with the facts that people are increasingly time starved, and that 60% of Americans don’t know at 4 p.m. what they’re going to have for dinner that evening, and opportunities abound for retailers that distinguish themselves with better food offerings.

“I don’t want to compete on the price per gallon of gas — on value — I want to compete on the experience,” he said.

Contact Bret Thorn at
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

Fund started by former McDonald’s CEO acquires PizzaRev

Nation's Restaurant News - Mon, 2017-05-22 18:58

Don Thompson is getting into the pizza business.

Cleveland Avenue LLC, a Chicago-based accelerator that invests in restaurant, food and beverage concepts, has acquired a majority stake in the fast-casual pizza chain PizzaRev.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“This is more than investment; this is a partnership,” Thompson said in a statement. “Our mission is to provide collaborative expertise and educational, practical and financial resources to our network of entrepreneurs and industry partners. We’re delighted to join forces with PizzaRev and begin working together toward achieving long-term sustained success.”

Thompson added that Cleveland Avenue invested in PizzaRev “because of its potential for scale and growth.”

Speculation of a potential sale of PizzaRev has been rampant for several months. Buffalo Wild Wings Inc., the Minneapolis-based chicken wing chain, made an investment in PizzaRev in 2013, when the fast-casual pizza chain had just three locations.

"We made the decision to sell our minority stake in PizzaRev," Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith said in an emailed statement. "Buffalo Wild Wings’ strategy to invest in emerging brands has been focused on the opportunity to share best practices and strategically participate in the growth of exciting brands. We have enjoyed collaborating with PizzaRev and are confident that Cleveland Avenue is the right partner to position PizzaRev for continued success."

Buffalo Wild Wings stopped expanding the chain last year. And earlier this year, the company closed its PizzaRev locations in Minnesota.

Buffalo Wild Wings has been making changes in recent months as an activist shareholder, Marcato Capital, has sought seats on the chain’s board of directors.

PizzaRev grew rapidly after the Buffalo Wild Wings investment, and currently has 200 locations under development. The chain currently has more than 50 locations, fewer than its fast-casual pizza rivals MOD Pizza, Blaze Pizza and Pie Five.

Nicholas Eckerman, who co-founded the chain in 2012, hopes the deal with Cleveland Avenue can take the chain to the “next level.”

“Our focus is always on our customers and giving them delicious, unexpected and quality choices in this pizza revolution we created,” Eckerman said in a statement. “Cleveland Avenue’s team has the industry expertise, versatile resources and strategic vision we need at this crucial juncture in PizzaRev’s growth.”

Update: May 22, 2017  This story has been updated with a comment from Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith. 

Contact Jonathan Maze at

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

Smart prices 2017 electric 2-seat coupe from $24,550

AutoNews - Mon, 2017-05-22 18:38
As it goes to an all-electric strategy, Smart USA is dropping the price of its redesigned 2017 Smart Electric Drive coupe by $1,200 when it goes on sale this summer.
Categories: Latest News

The latest in tech: Scheduling, delivery and automation

Nation's Restaurant News - Mon, 2017-05-22 18:38

This is part of NRN’s special coverage of the 2017 NRA Show, being held in Chicago, May 20-23. Visit for the latest coverage from the show, plus follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Scheduling, delivery and automation were key topics at tech exhibits at the NRA Show, particularly for operators looking to trim labor costs and improve efficiency.

Here’s a look at what’s new in tech from the show floor:

A new self-service kiosk from BrightSign and Felbro Displays

• Delivery and takeout marketplace Grubhub announced an integration with point-of-sale provider Oracle Hospitality that allows restaurants to manage in-house, delivery and takeout orders from one device.

The integration removes a common pain point. Previously, staffers manually put Grubhub orders into the POS system, which took time and left room for error. With the integration, Grubhub’s website and apps will also have automatic access to menu updates and pricing changes, and financial information will be consolidated, eliminating the need for staff to juggle information from multiple devices.

The integration includes users of the Breadcrumb POS by Upserve and Toast.   

• As a result, Toast introduced new takeout and delivery features, as well as a free food-cost calculator that can help operators know what to put on their menu with data from other restaurants in the area and pricing.

• OpenSimSim unveiled a free, cloud-based scheduling tool that allows real-time notifications to workers’ mobile devices, a template for easy schedule creation, and message board and chat capabilities.

Workers can update availability, ask for time off, swap shifts or apply for extra hours. The scheduler has been beta tested in the San Diego restaurants Urge American Gastropub and Pardon My French Bar & Kitchen.

• Noodoe showed off its tableside service block, with five customizable calls to action.

Autec's sushi robot

Guests can flip the block to the icon facing up to, say, call their server, or ask for water or the check. The block sends a wireless signal to a digital wristband worn by the server. The wristband vibrates and lets the server know what the guests need and at which table.

The Noodoe block can also be used in the kitchen to allow line cooks to call food runners when a plate is ready. It’s also good for private dining or out-of-the-way tables, said Steve Kuo, Noodoe’s founder. The service block is in use at the California restaurants Cicciotti’s and Bub’s At The Ballpark.

• OpenTable has joined forces with QSR Automation’s DineTime to allow guests to book reservations or get on the waiting list for casual-dining restaurants. 

OpenTable offers reservations for more than 42,000 restaurants around the world, including many high-end concepts, while QSR Automations is a kitchen and restaurant management platform for about 80 percent of the largest casual-dining chains. With the partnership, guests can use OpenTable to estimate wait times and add their names to waitlists. 

Startup Alley has more interactive exhibits with video games, ping pong and beer pong.

• Digital signage specialist BrightSign debuted a new self-service kiosk, developed in partnership with Felbro Displays.

“Self-serve ordering at kiosks has the potential to be the next big thing in restaurant-based digital signage,” said Jeff Hasting, BrightSign’s CEO, in a statement. “Similar to how digital menu boards reinvented the restaurant experience over the past decade, kiosks will be central to restaurant design in the years ahead as proprietors further explore the use of technology to enrich the customer experience.”

• Autec displayed several models of its sushi robot, a machine of sorts that can make 400 sushi rolls in an hour. Humans must insert the seaweed and the machine rolls out a perfect layer of rice. The human adds the filling — fish and wasabi — and the robot rolls it into a perfect sushi roll. Another machine cuts the roll into bite-sized pieces. 

• Zuus has been known for automated scheduling in the quick-service segment, but this year they’re moving into full-service restaurants, offering a labor management program that shows labor and corresponding sales hour by hour throughout a shift, or even down to 15-minute increments. The platform is compatible with NCR, Toast, Micros and Revel systems.

Correction: May 22, 2017  An earlier version of this story misspelled Zuus. It has been updated. 

Contact Lisa Jennings at

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

50% of retailers not ready to support IoT

Store Front Talk Back - Mon, 2017-05-22 17:21
In a recent benchmark report from Retail Systems Research, 50% of retailers said that their existing infrastructure is not capable of supporting the internet of things.

Retailers closing physical stores see online traffic decline

Store Front Talk Back - Mon, 2017-05-22 17:11
The first half of 2017 has seen many traditional physical stores shut their doors. SimilarWeb has collected data on how these closures have affected the online presence of these same brands.

Dwyer Group connects franchise brands with new platform

SmartBrief - Mon, 2017-05-22 14:18
Dwyer Group Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Zoellner explains why the company created Neighborly, a digital hub that brings 13 d -More
Categories: Latest News

Pa. Planet Fitness franchisee acquires 12 more gyms

SmartBrief - Mon, 2017-05-22 14:18
National Fitness Partners, a Pennsylvania-based Planet Fitness franchisee, is expanding in the Carolinas with the recent purc -More
Categories: Latest News

Being yourself is your great leadership asset

SmartBrief - Mon, 2017-05-22 14:18
Leaders should worry about who they are rather than seeking to impersonate others, Jesse Sostrin writes.  -More
Categories: Latest News

Charisma can be developed

SmartBrief - Mon, 2017-05-22 14:18
Charisma is often spoken about when discussing innate qualities, but charisma can be learned, writes Sarah Weber.  -More
Categories: Latest News

Taco Bell provides scholarship, opportunity for aspiring artist

SmartBrief - Mon, 2017-05-22 14:18
Aspiring artist Devon Woodrum earned money toward her education by participating in Taco Bell's Live Mas Scholarship program. -More
Categories: Latest News